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December 18, 2014

Texting: A Life Beyond Marketing

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Many businesses send mass text messages as part of their marketing plan. And why not? It’s a low-cost, highly effective way to offer special deals directly to customers. But direct marketing is just one way to leverage the power of SMS messaging.

Increasingly, companies are finding more innovative uses for text messages. For some, it’s about customer relationship management. For others, it’s merely the most easily accessed form of communication for remote employees. A growing number of businesses are no longer just using text messages to offer something of value – they’re using it to take payments from clients.

Let’s take a look at some common, non-marketing uses of text messaging:

News Updates

SMS is ideal for issuing operational information such as store opening and closing times, locations etc. It’s a brilliant way to engage customers and keep them aware of your brand without trying to sell anything.

Urgent Notices

Circumstances sometimes conspire to prevent entrepreneurs getting on with their plans. Let’s say you’re running an event and your keynote speaker drops out. What if that speaker was the only reason some of your attendees were planning to go? Letting them know of the schedule change by SMS may disappoint them – but not nearly as much as showing up and finding out on the day. For instant contact with an extremely high chance of being viewed, SMS is unrivalled. 

Competitions & Surveys

It’s true that your business will go nowhere if it doesn’t offer something people will pay money for. But that doesn’t mean your relationship with customers has to start and end with a financial transaction. Give them something fun to pass the time on the bus and they are already that bit closer to purchasing something. Offer a prize and they’re even more likely to play along. Create a quiz that’s relevant – even tangentially – to your company. Send it to opted in customers via text message and get the responses back in the same way. You can learn a lot about customer preferences this way!

Appointment Reminders

With hectic schedules and multiple distractions, missed appointments are a fact of business. SMS is a fantastic tool for issuing reminders to customers. Do it within 24 hours of the appointment to allow them to re-organize without risking them forgetting for a second time. Although not a marketing tip, this approach will ultimately help you grow your bottom line by minimizing lossess incurred by no-shows.

December 17, 2014

How SMS is Helping Small Businesses in Latin America

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The second annual Latin American Bitcoin Conference took place in Rio earlier this month. More than 200 attendees saw seminars and panels featuring 37 guest speakers from around the world. 

Among the keynote speakers were a number of bitcoin representatives. The crypto currency is making a big impact across the region. A new partnership between Coinapult and 37 Coins seeks to expand bitcoin access to segments of the population without smartphones or traditional banking methods at their disposal. Their weapon? SMS messaging.

The service allows bitcoin users the world over to send and receive payments using only a feature phone with SMS capability. For entrepreneurs in South America, it holds the promise of allowing them to operate from remote areas, lessening the burden on over-populated urban centers.

This is a crucial development, not just for SMB owners, but for the public purse as well. Millions of small businesses across Latin America are currently restricted to cash-only transactions. This raises the question: how sure can local governments be that rural entrepreneurs are doing due diligence when it comes to paying taxes? It hardly takes a cynic to assume millions of pesos, bolivianos, reals and dollars are slipping through the net.

Of course, there will always be a black market. For some, operating outside the system is a point of principal. But for most small businesses, removing the temptation is all that’s needed to reduce corruption. Give them the tools to accept trackable, taxable payments and they’ll play ball, safe in the knowledge that the added security will help their business in the long run. Legitimacy is so much more attractive when it’s easily achieved.

A similar scheme – albeit with no SMS element – has been implemented in East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. M-Pesain allows its 16 million users to send and receive money, pay bills and withdraw cash from local ATMs. 

SMS-based money transfer systems are providing the way forward in Latin America. Paraguay has Giros Tigo, which incurs a 5% commission fee. Brazil and Argentina have similar systems in place.

Bitcoin and text messaging seem to be a winning doubles team. The key beneficiaries are often people who face discrimination from financial institutions, which view them as risky prospect for credit. Entrepreneurs trying to make headway in these conditions find it difficult to send money, pay with credit cards or open a bank account – no matter how promising their ideas are. Nothing can match text message in terms of potential: four billion people worldwide are living without smartphones (perish the thought!) and the remittances market has found it’s most promising tool yet in SMS-enabled bitcoin transfers.

December 15, 2014

The Ten Best Mobile Marketing Campaigns of 2014

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2014 has seen some terrific mobile marketing campaigns. By utilizing both social media sites and all of the functionality of mobile phones, we’ve seen some innovative ways that advertisers have increased their reach with mobile users. Here are the ten best campaigns of 2014:

1. NASA’s #GlobalSelfie engages users to create a worldwide mosaic of photos.

Nominated for its use of multiplatform social media for engagement, NASA invited users to take selfies that they would organize and compile into a global mosaic on Earth Day 2014. Using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+, NASA urged users to include the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Users could also access the event directly on Facebook, Flickr and Google+.

2. White House’s #getcovered spreads the word about Obamacare.

The social media campaign from the White House received a huge response from users, even in 2014. #Getcovered allowed users to tweet their personal stories regarding securing health insurance, and utilized a Storify slideshow to enhance their website.

3. NPR’s company page on LinkedIn provides rich content for workers.

By offering LinkedIn users exactly what they’re there to receive, NPR increased its brand awareness. Users can access NPR’s company page right from their mobile phones to get information about how to improve their career and to increase their knowledge of their industry. Many of their posts are educational and inspiring, and have tremendous reach.

4. Nissan launches a multiplatform B2B campaign with comedy and celebrity.

Nissan’s digital and social marketing campaign promoted its rugged commercial vans, and achieved a wonderful response from the companies it reached. The ads, entitled “Tough Love,” featured rock-and-roller Bret Michaels getting in touch with his softer side. The juxtaposition proved a hit, and garnered terrific ROI for the car company.

5. Nivea’s Bluetooth-enabled print ad helps to track your children at the beach.

Nivea launched an innovative print campaign that featured a removable protector strip that can be placed on a child’s wrist. An app called Protégé then allows parents to track where their kids are by locating the protector strip using Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Very handy for beach trips, indeed.

6. Hershey’s unveils a sponsored mobile data opportunity with a video campaign.

In an astoundingly simple way to get mobile users engaged, Hershey offers to pay for part of your mobile data when you watch their Scharffen Berger brand commercial. The sponsored content, offered by AT&T and partners through advertisements on apps like Pandora, has been well-received by mobile users.

7. Movie theatres incorporate mobile-enabled interactive ads into their lobbies and on screen.

Thousands of movie theatres have enabled moviegoers to interact using the camera on their mobile phones. The visual search platform Slyce teamed up with Screenvision to enhance the audience experience when going to the movies. Consumers have eaten up the ads, downloading games and purchasing film-inspired merchandise due to these effective interactive advertisements.

8. Pepsi – London #LiveForNow turns a bus stop into a wild and weird space.

PepsiMax created a bus shelter ad that made it appear as though crazy events were taking place. The entire experience was recorded and converted into an advertisement (that consequently went viral). Watch the advertisement here: http://youtu.be/Go9rf9GmYpM.

9. Red Cross collects donations after Hurricane Sandy with an SMS short code.

In an unprecedented example of human kindness, people around the world donated money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Red Cross’ donation efforts. Donors texted “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10, which billed mobile users directly through their cell providers. 20% of all of the donations received by the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief came through text message donations.

10. Samsung’s #Oscars Celebri-tweet dominates Twitter.

Everyone who is anyone heard about Ellen’s celebri-tweet during the Oscars. Very few knew that it was a ploy, created by Samsung, to increase brand awareness among the viewers of the awards program. Probably the most brilliant mobile marketing stroke to date, the famous photo was shared and shared – causing viewers to create their own selfies and engage with the brand as well. 

The key to good mobile marketing is to consider all of the ways that you can roll out your campaign: the capabilities of devices, the variability, and how to incorporate every platform available. Then, keep it as simple as possible. All of the above examples do just that, by simplifying the strategy while increasing customers’ awareness of the brand.

December 10, 2014

Why Are Mobile Marketing Budgets Increasing?

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We see a lot in these pages about the growth of mobile marketing. But just how fast is that growth happening? And are the same trends expected in future? 

The more the industry swells its ranks and revenues, the more data we have to go on. A recent Tatango survey looked at mobile budget trends and forecasts and compared the results with previous mobile marketing metrics. So, are budgets going up in accordance with the mobile explosion? 

The answer is yes. Very much so. Some 44% of marketers said they were increasing their mobile budgets during 2014 – up from a little over 42% in 2013. Mobile is proving particularly popular with startups, who can devise creative mobile marketing campaigns on relatively few dollars.

Other surveys report similar upward trends. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 8% in 2015. Exactly half of all respondents stated an intention to increase digital spending next year.

The message from businesses remains remarkably consistent. Gartner’s research was conducted with the participation of 315 companies located in the United States, Canada and the UK. They represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue, working in six disparate industries: hospitality, tech, manufacturing, financial services, retail and media. The bigger the firm, the greater the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue; companies with revenues in excess of $5 billion report spending, on average, 11% of revenue on marketing. For companies generating between $500 million and $1 billion, marketing spend was 9.2%. 

And really, those dollars are what it all comes down to. Understanding how to exploit capital to it’s fullest potential is the primary challenge for cash-strapped startups. That’s why having an effective CFO is so important, and it goes a long way towards explaining the huge popularity of mobile marketing tactics like coupons and time-limited discounts, which are easily and affordably disseminated via text message.

The modern marketer is performing a delicate balancing act. Each strand of their campaign must be woven together into a satisfying whole. Integration is everything. The resultant consumer experience is nudging users towards a more self-service buying model, which means businesses can reduce traditional sales-led budgets without sacrificing quality. Marketing budgets in general – and mobile marketing budgets in particular – are the primary beneficiaries of this new model. If you’re yet to move ad spend into a coherent mobile marketing strategy, it might be time to start…

December 09, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines Goes Mobile

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Ethiopian Airlines happens to be the largest and most profitable airline company on the African continent, and recently announced plans to become a mobile-only operation. The company’s Mobile Short Message Service (SMS) information system launched at the end of November 2014, and provides customers with easy access to flight information and cargo tracking.

Customers simply send a mobile short code SMS text to the 8611 messaging number to receive cargo information and check flight status. Part of Ethiopian Airlines’ ‘Mobility’ project, customers can access vital information instantly while on the road. The Mobility project is designed so customers can perform transactions directly from their mobile devices, whether booking flights, checking in, choosing seats and more.

The Mobility campaign also makes it possible for those welcoming passengers on Ethiopian flights to to check exact arrival times of flights by texting  8611 with “f” followed by the flight number or “r” followed by the expected route. Cargo customers may track shipments by texting  “c” followed by their Air Way Bill number of shipment. Such customers no longer have to visit the Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal before the shipment arrives, and texting “i” or “help” accesses system guidelines. 

The airline is also working to further streamline their customer service experience by adding more features to their mobile SMS service. 

“Ethiopian is first and foremost a customer service organization,” says Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines. “We are continuously looking at ways and means of availing to our customers the best possible travel experience both on the ground and on- board. In today’s digital era, customers want to have access to real-time and personalized information at the tip of their fingers using mobile devices. The launching of this SMS service is only the beginning of a grandiose plan to use a new system called “Mobility” which is mobile digital channels for enhancing customer experience.” 

Ethiopian Airlines received the Passenger Choice award for the Best Airline in Africa in August 2014 following a highly-extensive survey of passengers in the industry. A global Pan-African carrier, Ethiopian currently serves 84 international destinations on five continents. Current aircraft technology, including B777s and B787s, is used on the airline’s some 200 daily flights.

Will Ethiopian succeed in becoming a mobile-only operation? And if so, will other airlines follow suit? In today’s increasingly mobile-driven market, it’s entirely possible, and could up the customer service convenience factor considerably. 

December 08, 2014

6 Ways Retailers Can Reach Cyber Shoppers

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With cyber deals nearly as prevalent on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday as they are on Cyber Monday, more and more retailers are implementing holiday mobile marketing tactics. Let’s check out a few options for engaging cyber shoppers this year:

 

1) Dynamic Ads

Some clothing retailers are creating campaigns where consumers can click through ads and gain access to their latest collections. This includes browsing the entire catalog, viewing prices and embedded videos, and more. Such dynamic catalogs also automatically update with new offers. An ideal way for consumers to learn more about and engage with a brand, it also provides an easy online shopping option.

 

2) Integrated Content-Driven Commerce

"The online environment is the perfect medium for brands to engage consumers and provide that highly-valued content, however it is often disjoined from the shopping experience,” says Amanda McCreary, senior product marketing manager of online content platform company, Acquia. “Many brands have fallen into what Forrester Research calls the 'Two-Site Syndrome', with one site containing the product catalog, and another containing the rich, engaging marketing content. When this happens, the exploration and shopping experiences become disjointed, and leaves revenue on the table.” 

Brands should therefore focus on creating “integrated content-driven commerce experiences online.” Options for such a mobile marketing strategy includes engaging Facebook or blog posts that link to specific deal or sale pages, or an entire product catalog.

 

3) Location-Based Technology

A retail location may opt to blend their online world with their physical location via location-based technology. This can include presenting shoppers with deals and suggestions through their mobile devices when they enter retail stores, or catering to customers who live within a certain area/geographic region.

 

4) Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are another excellent mobile marketing tactic, with retailers such as Kohl’s, Victoria’s Secret and H&M all doing a superb job of including features and offers in their apps that “keep customers coming back for more.” Kohl’s in particular highlights deals of the day, coupons and other special offers that give consumers great reasons to use and refer to their app.

 

5) Social Media Sweepstakes

Social media sweepstakes across channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are mobile tactics that keep consumers engaged, since people check these channels about as regularly as they do their text messages. People usually jump at the chance to win free stuff or deep discounts, so sweepstakes keeps a retail brand firmly in the minds of shoppers.

 

6) Online Holiday Gift Guides

Online holiday gift guides can work as supplements to online catalogs, as many use their mobile devices to browse products before they shop. A dazzling online gift guide is certainly a way to engage customers, and one way to do so is through QR codes. Think of adding a QR code to each print ad that sends customers directly to a gift guide. 

 

 

 

December 03, 2014

SMS Do-Over: The App That Lets You Delete Sent Messages

 

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You know the feeling. You’ve just hit ‘send’ on an incendiary/embarrassing/meaningless/meaningful (delete as appropriate) SMS and really wish you hadn’t. You’d give anything to delete it from the recipient’s phone.

Well now you can do just that – and you don’t have to give anything at all. Free text messaging app Wiper is generating ripples of excitement amongst online privacy advocates – but does it really work?

In short, yes. It may not be the smoothest messaging interface out there, but it does what it promises by allowing users to make calls, send texts and – most importantly – wipe messages that have already been sent. A pleasingly retro eraser animation scrubs the erroneous message and sends a notification to the recipient letting them know what’s happened.

The Wiper team are still working on solving the problem of screenshots; thus far, a recipient can still grab an image of the conversation, effectively nullifying the app’s primary function. However, Wiper will send you a notification to let you know a screenshot has been taken. At least you can prepare yourself for whatever shades of hellfire you imagine will rain down on you for your SMS slip-up. 

Wiper’s kill-switch takes the idea of text messaging as an ephemeral form of communication one stage further. The ex you ill-advisedly texted after a few beers may not be able to ‘unsee’ what you wrote, but at least they can’t show their friends or humiliate you by uploading it to social media. One tap, all gone.

But Wiper’s raison d’etre is about much more than destroying embarrassing tittle-tattle. CEO Manlio Carrelli sees privacy as one of the ‘big issues of our time’ and wants to bring the ideals of data protection to the general public.

Which is all well and good, providing we can trust yet another promising tech start up with our personal data. The app is not open source. We can only take the developers’ word that they will decisively destroy information from their servers once the erase command is given. With data protection such a high-profile, sensitive issue, a little cynicism has to be expected.

That said, the app makes a decent fist of allowing users to have freewheeling conversations just as if they were talking one-on-one, in person, with no fear of their words coming back to haunt them. You can also share YouTube videos instantly, simply by clicking on them from within the app. For the data deletion skeptics, this feature is probably more attractive than Wiper’s headline function. 

November 29, 2014

SMS Can Drastically Improve the Cost Effectiveness of Your Collections Process

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In the past, collections agencies have utilized automated calls and effective agents to receive payments from the overdue accounts of borrowers. These days, we have the advantage of automated digital options, including email and apps to help remind customers of their bills. One method has risen to the top recently, though – the SMS authorized payment. 

Due to the explosion in mobile traffic, lenders are turning to SMS as the principal way to reach the bearers of overdue accounts. Everyone has a mobile phone, and since they tend to carry them at all times, this has made the method of SMS authorized payments very attractive to lenders. Collections agencies are now reporting that SMS strategies for collections have the highest rate of successful repayments.

 

Reduction in Expenses

The benefits to lenders are clear. SMS authorized payments reduce costs for the lender, while providing a superior customer experience. Studies show that SMS payments cost lenders about one-quarter of the amount required for automated voice services, and only a tenth of what it costs to pay an agent to secure collections.

 

Customer Preference

In addition, customers prefer digital contact with lenders rather than with a direct agent. There are many reasons that borrowers lean toward digital contact: Agents can be more difficult for customers to interact with, and digital methods are less embarrassing and intrusive for borrowers.

Provided that a lender abides by all privacy laws while leaving preferences up to the customer, most customers will choose to pay through interactive SMS correspondence. Options must be provided for each borrower: should a customer decide to pay using another method, the lender should work to allow for these changes. As always, any and all payments must be allocated by the collections system, regardless of method.

 

Integration 

SMS technology is also one of the easiest methods to incorporate into established collections systems. Once receiving the SMS past due alert, the customer can pay by phone or click through to the website in order to create a payment plan, chat with a live agent, and schedule future payments. It is on the website that the customer should be given the option to manage their payments through SMS authorized payments according to their schedule. These preferences should include the best way for the lender to contact the borrower as well. Creating ease-of-use online will drastically impact your opt-in text list.

All in all, SMS authorized payments are the wave of collections’ future. Consider the benefits to your agency, and the peace of mind you will provide for customers. 

November 27, 2014

3 Ways to Get More Punters with Mobile Marketing

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Punter (noun) British, informal : customer

SMS messaging is the most effective marketing method for bars. It lets you target specific customers with bespoke promotions, maximize your ROI and grow that all-important contact list.

The beauty of using mobile marketing tactics for bar promotion is the receptiveness of a willing audience, primed to engage with businesses via their smartphone. According to a recent YouGov survey, 75% of smartphone users prefer to receive promotional material in a text message. It’s a flexible medium capable of sending short, succinct information containing links to rich content. SMS is the perfect gateway to the meatier elements of your marketing strategy.

Here are five reasons why text message marketing is a good way to grow your business:

Immediacy

More than 90% of text messages are opened and read within a few minutes. That includes commercial SMS which, unlike email, requires opt-in consent from users. For that reason, texts are trusted sources of information. Let’s say you run a promotion via email. You need to announce your latest drinks special at least a few days ahead of time. What if your bar ends up packed with punters who did not receive the email? There was no need to run the offer and you’ve failed to maximize your profits. With SMS marketing, you can turn a slow Monday night into a busy one by issuing a last-minute deal. Now, you’re only reducing prices when it makes sound financial sense to do so.

Entertainment Promotions

If you run a live music program, you’ll know how effective it can be at drawing in a crowd. But bands are notoriously unreliable, and schedules can change with only a few hours notice. SMS messaging keeps your punters abreast of all the latest changes to the lineup, so even if someone pulls out, you can minimize the negative impact of disappointed customers.

Geo-Targeted Promos

One of the most powerful weapons in the mobile marketers arsenal, geo-targeting is a highly effective strategy for attracting nearby business. For bars and restaurants, geo-targeting is particularly useful, as you can quickly identify which opt-in customers are in the area, devise a promotion that will appeal to them, and get them through the door. This technique is especially useful on weekend nights; people are already out (often in large groups) bar-hopping with no real destination in mind. Geo-targeting allows you to attract passing trade during busy nights by offering an unbeatable drinks promotion. Again, make the offer time limited and punters are more likely to make a snap decision. With your nearby promotion, they’ll do the math and realize that spending the next couple of hours in your bar will save them a bundle.

SMS message marketing is highly effective for a fraction of the cost of other forms of advertising. A strategy can be devised and implemented within minutes. Reaching an audience in such a short space of time simply isn’t possible with more traditional ad mediums like radio and print. If your bar still doesn’t have a mobile marketing strategy, get one going in time for the festive season and your business will have a very merry Christmas indeed…

November 25, 2014

How SMS Marketing Drives Black Friday Sales

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SMS marketing impacts Black Friday sales in a big way. Since it’s the biggest shopping day of the year and the beginning of holiday shopping activities, marketing campaigns announcing Black Friday sales are everywhere...including on mobile devices. And really, what better way to advertise Black Friday deals and events than with SMS? The vast majority of consumers own mobile devices, which they have turned on (and carry on their person) at all times. Ninety-five percent of marketing messages sent via SMS and MMS are opened, so crafting marketing campaigns around mobile devices makes a whole lot of sense, as many retailers have discovered.

Businesses use SMS to deliver sales alerts to customers, as well as exclusive coupons, video clips, and much more. All help ensure customer loyalty and holiday business; and when the holidays are over, businesses have a whole new database of customers opted-in to loyalty programs. This means alerting customers to sales events and new products all year long.

 

Black Friday: 2012

According to IBM, mobile shopping increased considerably in 2012 compared to 2011, with 24% of customers using a mobile device to visit retailer sites. Some 16% of shoppers used a mobile device to shop in 2011. In 2012 the iPad was the main device utilized for online shopping, followed by the iPhone and the Android. And while shoppers used social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to express gratitude about great deals and sales in 2012, that number decreased from the previous year. Shoppers referred from social networks made up .34% of online sales in 2012, a decrease of over 35% from 2011.

 

Black Friday: 2013

Last year, the amount Black Friday shoppers spent over the two-day Thanksgiving holiday rose 2.3% compared to 2012. Online sales also increased--20% from the previous year on Thanksgiving and 19% on Black Friday. Amazon.com attracted consumers by offering deals and discounts every 10 minutes, while Walmart processed some 10 million register transactions from 6pm to 10pm on that shopping day.

 

Black Friday: This Year

Social media may not play as prevalent a role in consumer shopping this year, however SMS marketing is certainly aiding retailers in their efforts to increase holiday revenue. Whether retailers will choose to implement new SMS strategies during the holiday season has yet to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: mobile marketing allows businesses to alert customers to Black Friday deals quickly, easily, and earlier than ever before. And with a simple click-through of a hyperlink, SMS receivers can make fast and easy mobile purchases. That means bigger sales, satisfied customers, and happier business owners this holiday season with SMS marketing.